- The Trump administration inappropriately withheld $91 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to analysis by the Government Accountability Office.
- President Trump's budget request for FY 2018 proposed eliminating the innovation agency, and called for Congress cancel more than $46 million of ARPA-E's unobligated balances and require that another $45 million be used to close down operations.
- The disputed funds have now been made available to ARPA-E, but officials say it reflects the administration's continued push to hold back funding of clean energy, even attempting to block legally appropriated funds.
GAO says the $91 million is "now available" and as such, the office will not be sending a report to Congress. However, ARPA-E did violate the Impoundment Control Act, GAO concluded, in responding to a DOE request not to distribute the funds.
"ARPA-E told us that it withheld the obligation of $91 million in FY 2017, per the Department of Energy's instructions, in anticipation of the enactment of the legislative proposals in the budget request," GAO found. President Trump's budget proposal called for closing down the office.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement that she is "deeply troubled" by GAO’s report that Energy Secretary Rick Perry was refusing to release funds "for innovation funding through ARPA-E that Congress has already funded."
According to Cantwell, ARPA-E is releasing a funding opportunity to start the competitive process to award the funds. But she said the Administration's actions "ignore Congressional intent, and are explicitly prohibited by law. The President cannot ignore statutory requirements or funding direction provided by Congress."
The Washington Post reports President Trump's White House is calling for Congress to end DOE's loan guarantee programs. The big exception there, of course, is the conditional commitments for up to $3.715 billion in loan guarantees the administration made to companies constructing the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia in September.
The White House already targeted the program earlier this year for massive budget cuts. In March, the White House's budget targeted the early-stage technology incubator for elimination, later trimming ARPA-E's budget in a minibus funding bill in July. It remains to be seen if the popular program will survive future budget cuts from the Trump Administration.